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Herb of the Week for 4th August 2006

‘Herbal Nostalgia’ by Lynn Kirkland

Cowslips, primulas and primroses all bring a feeling of nostalgia to those hailing from the other side of the word.
Cowslips used to grow wild in the fields with daisies and buttercups and my mum can recall picking the flowers to make cowslip necklaces, like a daisy chain.
Mum has no memories of cowslip wine though this was made back then from these delicately scented flowers.
Nowadays cowslips are no longer found growing wild, possibly grazing of animals or fertilising causing the grass to choke out wild flower seeds may be the reason for this.
Cowslips are primula veris; the veris word indicating that this is the true primula.
This was the one used herbally.
It was used for coughs and also for pain and spasms. In fact one of its old country names is palsy wort. Wort means plant sow e know that one of its medicinal uses in the past was for the treatment of palsy or paralysis.
The photo shows a very early spring posy of the small pale yellow flowers of cowslips which have orange spots inside the bloom together with the stunning primrose, Primula Vulgaris, Hose in Hose.
These delightful primroses are intriguing with one flower seeming to be growing out of another.
This variety is a traditional pale yellow primrose colour but they are available in vibrant shades as well.
The bright red flowers are polyanthus which are really a cross between primroses and primulas.
These colour spots are easily obtained in your garden centres where the true English Cowslip and the collectable Hose in Hose Primroses will take a little more tracking down.
Early spring flowering plants such as primroses and primulas are worthwhile growing fort he wonderful lift to the spirit they give when one comes across the first blooms in the garden.
Shakespeare was very enamored of the cowslip, primula veris mentioning it in his writings at least six times with descriptions of some aspect of this dainty flower which had delighted him.
Shakespeare also mentioned primroses, primula vulgaris, talking about “the primrose path of dalliance”, thought to describe the path through the woods he traveled on returning to his mother’s home after courting the lady he went on to make his wife.
Primulas can be grown form seed or established clumps can be split up during the dormant period in late autumn.
Enjoy some English nostalgia in your spring garden.


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